I always wanted children. When I got married, my love for my husband made me want children even more. As Baha’is we believe that love is the source and the cause of creation. So, even as humans, we create out of love. We have two-fold purpose in life; one is to grow spiritually and to prepare for the next world; the other is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, advancing materially but also spiritually. We see it as our responsibility to raise children to be those citizens that will carry forward the civilization.
Human beings are essentially spiritual beings; we have a lower and a higher nature. The lower nature is like an animal instinct, the higher nature encompasses all the virtues within us. As a mother I help my children to develop the higher nature, their virtues like love, generosity, and forgiveness, so that they become human beings who think about others first. The way we do it is manifold: we say prayers every day, the children memorise the quotations from the Baha’i writings. My little daughter is four years old; she loves these quotes. Sometimes she’s playing and I suddenly hear her say this to her dolls: “you live to do good and to bring happiness to others”.
Abdul Baha’i, the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith, says that children are like little plants, and you need to help them grow in the right direction. Once they are fully-grown, and they are crooked, it is almost impossible to correct it. So as a mother, it is important to be constantly aware of all my children’s developments. The responsibility of motherhood begins long before the birth; you need to prepare spiritually and mentally. I prayed for both my children while they were in my womb, I sang songs to them, I played classical music to them in the womb. I think it’s very important to prepare yourself as a mother.
I used to be more judgmental of other mothers, and I’m trying to make myself less so because everyone is in a different situation. The more you experience, the more you realise you cannot judge others. However, it makes me very sad when I see mothers get frustrated and angry with their children. I don’t like to see a child treated with less respect than an adult; obviously you need to guide them, to discipline them, and they also need to show respect for you, it doesn’t work just one way. But, I don’t like it when I see children treated as inferior; as a Baha’i I don’t think I can look at children as though they are mine, they’re not; they’re entrusted to me by God, and it’s my duty to raise them.
What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.
Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.
To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org